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What is Zoloft®?

By Ron Marr
Updated May 16, 2024
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Zoloft® is a drug, created and manufactured by the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, that is prescribed primarily for the treatment of depression and social anxiety disorders. It is also approved for use in treatment of other disorders, including panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It falls under the classification of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and was originally approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 as a treatment for depression. The chemical name for Zoloft® is sertraline hydrochloride.

There are many SSRIs available to physicians in addition to Zoloft®. The basic premise behind all of them is to assist in correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters. By correcting the imbalance of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical related to mood control and enhancement, Zoloft® allows the mind to better process electrical signals and relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.

This is no small thing, as anxiety disorders are estimated to affect as many as twenty million Americans alone. While the root cause may stem from biological, psychological, or environmental factors, those afflicted with anxiety disorders often lead a tortured existence. Symptoms include obsessive thoughts, intrusive and painful memories, overwhelming fear, and nightmares, in addition to physical symptoms such as muscle tension and rapid heart beat. Sufferers often realize that their fears are irrational, but they are still unable to control them.

Although Zoloft® is not regarded as a cure for anxiety, it can greatly relieve symptoms in many people. People with social anxiety, for example, may experience overpowering fear, panic attacks, profuse shaking and sweating, and an increased heart rate at the thought of such tasks as public speaking, working in front of others, social situations of most any kind, and even talking on the telephone. In some cases, the fear causes a total withdrawal from social situations, and increases the isolation that leads to severe depression. By helping to correct serotonin levels in the bloodstream, Zoloft® aids such people in leading a more happy and normal life.

As is true with all drugs, Zoloft® is not effective for everyone. Also, there is a considerable risk of side effects. These can include fever, loss of appetite, tremors, headaches, impotence, and insomnia, just to name a few. A qualified physician should monitor the use of Zoloft® very closely.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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